Tuesday, 20 September 2011

London Calling!

I have decided that if ever a time in my life was worthy of blogging it will be this week, so here we are! Welcome to my very first blog! We'll see how it goes.

Right now I am sitting in a small bedroom in north London belonging to my friend who is being a superstar and accommodating me until I can find a place of my own to live. The reason for this is a little strange and I'm still not quite used to the idea that I'm here at all! It is the result of a big brave decision, several months of unemployment and a couple of impulsive decisions. All of the above, however, have been driven by the realisation over the last couple of years that I really wanted - needed - to live in London.

I used to hate it. I grew up just 60 miles from here and so was dragged up regularly for school trips, family outings etc. Whilst I liked the museums and galleries and theatres, I hated the noise, the busyness and the frantic speed at which everyone and everything moves. I was an unashamed country bumpkin and never, ever thought I'd want to live here.

Then, I grew up, I started visiting friends here and I started to realise what an incredible place it was. So vibrant, full of life, full of different and interesting people, places and opportunities. I decided I had to take the chance to live here this year. My partner was going abroad for a work placement and I was sick of my job in Wiltshire. It was time to take the plunge, chuck in my job and find work in the capital.

It's been far from an easy road getting here. I, perhaps arrogantly, thought that with my degree, post-graduate and teaching experience, I should have no problem in finding employment. Huh. It seems that the media haven't been exaggerating the unemployment siutation. I spent months applying for positions, and then either never hearing back or getting flat rejections: 'Other candidates had more relevant experience than you'. By the end of August/beginning of this month, I was in despair. I'd moved out of my beautiful flat in Bath back in with the parents to save money. By then I was sure that I'd be on my way again and in the Big Smoke. It was starting to seem as if I'd be stuck in Kent forever.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, having decided to broaden my search slightly, I came across an advert for open interviews at a West End theatre. I was due to be in London that day anyway, so thought I may as well go along. I've always loved theatres: the atmosphere, the architecture, the sights, sounds and smells. Being a Literature graduate, I've always loved going to see plays. So, despite my concern that a front of house position (which is what the post advertised was) probably wouldn't pay much money, I decided to go.

This was a week ago today. I turned up on Shaftsbury Avenue (a stone's throw from Piccadilly Circus and just in front of Soho) at one o'clock and gave in my CV. In total, there were about 25 people there, and this was just one interview of several that they would be holding over the course of two afternoons. I discovered they were only looking for about 20 people in total, so I decided my chances weren't good. As the group was so large, I only got to speak for less than a minute. I came away having enjoyed the experience, having met some interesting people (including a French mime artist, no less!) and with the notion that it would be a fun job and I'd accept it if offered, but wasn't optimistic.

The very next day I received a phone call. 'We would like to offer you the job; can you start on Monday?'

Oh my good godfathers!

I immediately accepted. Sod the worries about money or anything else. This was a job! In London! In a theatre in the West End! I figured it that as it would be evening work I could use my day times to keep looking for other positions (especially as this job is only guaranteed until the end of the show's run, at the end of November).

My first panic of course was accommodation. I immediately leapt for the internet to look for spare room advertisements and in the meantime made a frantic call to my friend who lives in London already (and with whom I've stayed many times). She, luckily, was delighted to hear my news and happily offered to put me up until I could find a place of my own. Thank goodness! This meant i could move up on Sunday, a day before we were due to have our training session on Monday (yesterday).

On Sunday afternoon I arrived in London, taking the bare minimum with me and with fingers crossed for a room I was due to see that afternooon. I spent an hour with my friend Sophie and then headed off to view the room. It was great, so I registered my interest and I'm waiting to hear back today to see if I've got it. Fingers and other limbs still very much crossed!

Yesterday was my first day. I was due to be at the theatre at 1pm for the training session. I decided to make the most of what was a sunny morning by heading down to the river and having a wander before going back into the West End. As I strolled across the Golden Jubilee Bridge in the sunshine, gazing across at St Paul's and the Gherkin, with trains rattling across the line behind me, I felt so happy and lucky. Here I finally was! Unbelieable.

I perambulated down the South Bank, past the street entertainers and crowds waiting for the London Eye. I rested on a bench opposite the Houses of Parliament, just soaking in the view. A man sat next to me. 'Wonderful view, isn't it?' he said. I had to agree. He turned out to be a French/Italian painter, who had left those infinitely beautiful countries to be able to sit right there and paint. He said he loved how green England was compared with summers in the south of France. I was then amused by his attempt to teach me French and Italian, his pretence at being impressed by my limited knowledge of both and finally his invitation to accompany him to the National Portrait Gallery. I politely declined. In fairness, it was time for me to be leaving for work. Across the river, Big Ben was chiming midday.

How glorious was the walk from there?! Across Westminster Bridge, past the Houses of Parliament. Skirting along St James' Park and onto the Mall, from where I could see Buckingham Palace to my left and Admiralty Arch to my right. Cut through onto Pall Mall and up Regent Street. Voila.

I was the first to arrive at the theatre and was directed to sign in at the Stage Door(!) The afternoon was typical of a training session, in that we were given far too much information all at once about things we're unlikely to ever need to know (what happens if someone has a heart attack? What if a bomb goes off in Piccadilly Circus? What you should shout during an evacuation?). All necessary due to legalities I guess but a little alarmingly... alarmist.

Still, it was great to be there, to meet everyone and to eat the rather delicious pastries they provided for the break. Can't complain!

So, we start tonight! In a few hours I will be making my way back into Central London, walking into that Stage Door with increased confidence from yesterday, stealing a happy glance at the Soho Revue Bar right behind me and then it's on with the uniform and in with the patrons!

Everyone I told yesterday seemed geniunely impressed that I'd had the courage to quit my job, move to the big City and take the plunge into something which will hopefully be so much more fun and exciting. I'm impressed with me too, really! It is all so incredibly unlike me, who up until now has been so sensible and careful and.... dull, frankly. I'm so glad I finally saw sense. The thought that otherwise right now I'd be in a classroom ready to attempt entertaining 30 teenagers with spelling strategies is certainly enough to realise that!

So, hopefully, this is the start of my big adventure. My new year's resolution this year was to be brave and start living my life. I think I might just have achieved that. I shall keep you posted!!

Brave fairy Rachel x


  1. So excited for you!
    Congratulations and good luck!

  2. Nice read Rachel. How exciting! Can't wait to see what lies ahead for you. -Joanne.